Web Encoding

Discover why encoding on the web takes place and how to use it to your advantage.

What is web encoding?

Encoding is the process of converting information from one format into another, mostly for processing needs.

URLs are largely sent over the internet using the ASCII or UTF-8 character sets. Oftentimes, special characters, such as = and #; letters with accents, such as ä; and even non-Latin scripts, such as the Japanese kanji for “character,” 字, have to be used in URLs. These have to be encoded in order to be transmitted. This involves basically replacing these characters with one or more % followed by two hexadecimal characters.

Here are the encoded equivalents of the previous examples:

  • The “=” character is encoded to “%3D”
  • The “#” character is encoded to “%23”
  • The “ä” character is encoded to “%C3%A4”
  • The “字” character is encoded to “%E5%AD%97”

Note: Modern browsers now automatically make URLs human friendly and readable, i.e., we don’t get to see the encoding take place.

There are thousands of characters that can be encoded, so of course, we can’t display all of them here. You can still check out the table below to see a list of common special characters that have to be encoded.

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